Russian men, dying in war, leave many families sad, angry, and silent

The number of war dead is a state secret. It is a crime to question the invasion or criticize the military. Independent journalists who speak to bereaved relatives or cover funerals have been arrested and told that showing such “tears and suffering” is bad for public morale. Authorities have ordered some online memorial pages to be shut down.

The Kremlin’s priority has been to prevent angry voices of mourning families and antiwar activists from coming together and gaining traction. Information about war dead could deter Russia’s increasingly urgent recruitment effort, scraping up prisoners with military experience and offering highly paid contracts for deployments.

Internal security agents visited Dmitry Shkrebets this summer after he accused Russian authorities of lying about how many sailors died when the Black Sea flagship Moskva was sunk by Ukrainian missiles on April 13. His son Yegor, one of the conscripts onboard, was listed as “missing.” The agents accused Shkrebets of making bomb threats and confiscated his laptop, as he detailed on VKontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook. On Tuesday, 111 days after Yegor’s death, the military finally gave his father a death certificate.

“It will never be easier,” Shkrebets wrote in a post. “There will never be true joy. We will never be the same again. We have become different, we have become more unhappy, but also stronger, tougher. We no longer fear even those who should be feared.”